"Senior discount" and "senior benefits."
Once dreaded terms, the advantages of this right of passage will begin to sink in once that extra candle on the ol'birthday cake has been blown out.
But, let's be honest, we all love free stuff, right? We'll use just about every excuse to get freebies or, at the very least, discounts on products, services and entertainment. So, after the air has cleared of the thick smoke emanating from your dessert, as a newly minted senior citizen, it's time to embrace the benefits of such an exclusive club.
And, not just by clipping coupons that are available to the general public. In fact, the practice of taking advantage of specialized discounts begins at an early age, well before reaching our golden years.
Students flash their student IDs with pride in order to snap up cheap movie tickets, a lower fare on mass transit or a free dessert. No matter what your age every little bit helps. But, as a senior citizen, you've earned the right to get a whole lot of swag you may not be aware of.
If you're asking when the floodgates of free things start to flow, it depends on the benefit. The consensus as to when someone becomes a "senior citizen" is typically 65. For instance, that's when folks can start collecting full social security benefits, however many companies will start offering deals on their products and services as early as 50.
Read on to find the top 5 benefits that will make a difference in your pocket book:
1. Social Security:
Let's start with cold, hard cash. If you or your spouse worked during your lifetimes and paid your taxes, you've earned your full Social Security benefits. This is a check given monthly the day you turn 65-67 (depending on when you were born). HOWEVER, you have the right to start collecting reduced benefits as young as 62. Not only that, but if one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse can start collecting reduced widow/widower benefits as early as 60. A lot of people do not know this. Additionally, the age to start collecting can be even younger depending on other circumstances such as dependents, disabilities, etc.
You can access information by going to the Social Security website or calling their toll-free number, but the best way to get information is by going in-person to a Social Security office in your community. Always get things in writing and follow up if you have any questions.
2. Health Insurance:
Depending on the patient, there are many ways to save on health coverage. As an AARP member, you have access to both health and long term care coverage at low group rates. This means you're guaranteed acceptance regardless of current or previously existing medical conditions. Just note, there is a difference in long term care and health insurance. Long term care can provide for you and your family if you become ill for an extended period of time.
Medicare, the more affordable alternative:
If you're at least 65 and/or have a special condition or disability, you or your spouse worked for at least 10 years and are eligible for Social Security, or you or your spouse are/were a government employee, you can qualify. Belonging to Medicare means the Affordable Care Act will not affect you. You can consider yourself covered. Also, Medicare now provides for more preventative services such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Patients save money on brand-name prescriptions. Also, the Medicare Trust fund has been extended to ensure coverage through 2029.
Medicaid, an added benefit for low-income seniors:
Medicare enrollees who need additional financial assistance to pay for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses due to low income, can apply for Medicaid. Medicaid also covers additional services beyond those provided under Medicare. Things like nursing facility care beyond the 100-day limit or skilled nursing facility care that Medicare covers, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids.
Supplemental, Security Income Benefits:
SSI is a monthly amount paid by Social Security to people with limited income and resources. Also, those who are disabled, blind, or 65 or older can receive benefits. SSI provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. SSI benefits aren’t the same as Social Security benefits.
3. Auto Insurance:
Drivers can take advantage of reduced-rate insurance policies as young as age 50. Carriers will offer discounts for all kinds of things like retirees, low mileage, part-time employment, good driving record, etc. If you're a retired member of the military, have a family member who was in the military, on active duty or serve in the National Guard or Reserves, you could be entitled to discounts that reduce your monthly payment by 5% to 10%.
4. Landline, Cell Phone Service:
Even for the non-retired, paying for things like cable, satellite, landline and cell phone service is getting more and more expensive. But, in some states, low-income seniors may qualify for a program called Lifeline. If you're a senior on some form of government-sponsored low-income program, and your income falls below 135% of the federal poverty line, then your landline or cell service may be discounted or even 100% subsidized. Safelink Wireless is one company that works with the government-sponsored Lifeline program.
Now that you've squared away your finances, if you've got some money saved up, it's time to treat yourself to a little fun that won't break the bank.
Again, AARP is an excellent resource for discount, senior travel. Vacationers can expect at least 10% off the regular price.
For those 62 and older, the National Park Service sells $10 lifetime passes to parks, and Amtrak gives a 15 percent discount. Many cities also offer reduced-price or even free rides on public transportation systems; in Philadelphia, everyone 65 and older rides the subway, buses, and trolleys free. Some airlines, including Southwest, sell a limited number of senior fares.